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In a category largely occupied by smaller brands like iOn, Drift, Liquid Image, and Contour, JVC is one of the few large electronics brands to produce an action cam.
Its first attempt, the Adixxion GC-XA1, made a bit of a splash, so to speak, because it was waterproof to 16.4 feet (5 meters), shockproof to 6.5 feet (2 meters), dustproof, and freezeproof -- without the need for an additional housing. It also had both a 1.5-inch LCD and Wi-Fi built in.
The follow-up, the Adixxion GC-XA2, uses the same rugged all-in-one design and makes some much-needed improvements to stay competitive in the POV category.
With an 8-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, the XA2 can record in 1080p at 60 frames per second as well as 720p at 120fps for slow-motion playback. It gets a new f2.4 lens with a 137-degree angle of view when recording at 1080p, 720p, or WVGA resolutions and 152 degrees at 960p and for photos. Also, a gyro sensor has been added to improve the camera's digital image stabilization (though it doesn't make a huge difference if the camera is really shaking).
JVC improved the camera's built-in Wi-Fi, too, and the camera can be used as an access point for streaming live video to a smartphone or to Ustream . You can also upload to YouTube or transfer pictures (but not video) to your device. The Adixxion app -- available for iOS and Android -- was updated, too, and has a Quad View feature that lets you simultaneously view streams from up to four Adixxion cameras.
Basically, though the camera looks the same, JVC overhauled it inside, making it a much better action cam than its predecessor and one of the best currently available for its $300 (£280) price.
Again, without the need for an additional housing, the XA2 is waterproof to 16.4 feet (5 meters), shockproof to 6.5 feet (2 meters), dustproof, and freezeproof. That's a big advantage when you just want to go out and shoot and not worry about a small tumble or rain or snow.
The camera weighs 4.8 ounces (135g) and measures 2.9 inches deep by 2.1 inches high by 1.4 inches wide (74mm deep by 53mm high by 35mm wide) making it very compact and lightweight for the category.
There are two 1/4-20 tripod mounts: one on the left and one on the bottom. That means you have plenty of options when it comes to mounting -- including GoPro accessories -- and you can attach it horizontally or vertically. (There's a setting to flip the image 180 degrees, too, should you need to mount it upside down.)
This flexibility could be why JVC only includes one adhesive mount with the Adixxion, though it does sell a few additional mounts and other accessories such as a dive housing good down to 130 feet (40 meters) and a lens protector.
Controls are a bit spongy, likely because of the camera's waterproofing, but are pretty straightforward and accessible even when mounted. There are power and record buttons; zoom buttons for the 5x digital zoom; and playback and menu buttons. The zoom controls are also used for menu navigation and shuttling through videos in playback.
A hatch on back covers the camera's removable, rechargeable battery, Mini-USB and Mini-HDMI ports, and a full-size slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards (though none are included). The door does not open easily, but that's probably for the best.
JVC quotes a battery life up to about 2 hours, but that's recording at 720p at 30fps. Recording at 1080p at 60fps you'll get a little more than half of that recording time. That said, you can always swap in a fresh battery or you can power the camera via a USB wall adapter.
The 1.5-inch 115K-dot-resolution LCD is just big enough to easily set up your shot before you start recording without any additional cost or connecting to a smartphone. It also means you can quickly change your recording and other camera settings.
The Adixxion XA2 doesn't have the same extensive list of recording options as GoPro's Hero3+ Black Edition , but there is enough to satisfy most mainstream needs. You can record in MP4 format at 1,920x1,080 at 60p (NTSC)/50p (PAL) or 30p (NTSC)/25p (PAL); 1,280x960 (aka tall HD) at 30p (NTSC)/25p (PAL); 1,280x720 at 60p (NTSC)/50p (PAL) or 30p (NTSC)/25p (PAL); and 848x480 30p (NTSC)/25p (PAL). There's also a high-speed mode that records at 720p at 120fps (NTSC)/100fps (PAL), which plays back in slow motion.
There are settings for exposure compensation and white balance if you don't like the way the camera is automatically handling things for your conditions. And JVC throws in some effects if you like your colors more vivid or want to add in some black-and-white, sepia, or negative clips to your movies.
Other shooting options include burst photos at up to 15fps; time-lapse photos and videos; and single 8- or 16-megapixel photos (though the latter is interpolated). There's an Endless Record option, too, that will continuously record 15-minute clips until your storage fills up, at which point it will start recording over the oldest clips.
Note: There is no audio in the video sample below until the 4-minute mark.
Aside from everything else the XA2 offers, its video quality is really very good. Though the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition continues to be the video quality leader, the Adixxion's 1080p video at 60fps has a relatively high bit rate of 22Mbps at a constant bit rate, resulting in sharp scenes with good detail.
Colors lean more toward natural than punchy, but if you prefer more vivid video straight from the camera, you just have to use the Vivid setting. Exposure is generally good and adjusts smoothly, but that doesn't mean it won't occasionally blowout a sunny sky depending on how the camera is positioned.
There is some Jell-O effect with heavy vibration of the camera and is perhaps the most disappointing part of the video quality. JVC includes electronic image stabilization, but it didn't really help with this. For mild shaking or movement on smooth terrains, it might be worth switching on.
As for audio, like every action cam I've tested, the Adixxion doesn't handle wind noise well. Plan on dropping the audio track for music or narration. Otherwise, audio sounds good and the mic is fairly sensitive. You can hear an audio sample in the last 25 seconds of the video sample above.
The JVC Adixxion GC-XA2 is an excellent little camera for the money. It's rugged and waterproof without a housing but still small and lightweight. It has a nice feature set and video quality is right up there with some of the better cameras in the category. There's really very little not to like here.